With Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika have once again made a masterpiece of animation, perfectly blending their beautiful art style with seamless stop motion and puppetry to create some of the most stunning visuals I have seen from any of their features; perhaps from any film at all. Whilst the story is simplistic, Kubo still maintains the current trend of childrens films that can wholly satisfy an adult audience – awakening an inner curiosity and wonder in all ages.
Kubo and the Two strings manages to combine originality with simplicity perfectly; whilst the twists of the tale are predictable and the pacing inconsistent, the pure imagination and passion poured into each and every frame transcends it above the basic plot. No tale of a boy, a monkey and a samurai beetle on a quest to find magical armour can be accused of unoriginality and, in many ways, the simplicity serves to streamline the introduction of the various creative set pieces – the focus is kept on the creativity where the film is strongest. Expectedly with Laika, Kubo delivers a dark lingering atmosphere that stands out from other animated features; while not reaching Coraline levels of creepiness, characters like the Sisters will still chill viewers and maintain the now established tone of this growing studio; that of challenging the status quo when it come to childrens entertainment.
The casting of stars Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey is surprisingly perfect with both falling perfectly into their roles and delivering the majority of the heart and humour respectively. The same can be said for the rest of the relatively small voice cast who all do a fine job filling out the detailed shoes of their miniature puppets. Despite the white washing of the Asian characters, I still feel the film educates viewers about not only Japanese culture but also their mythology and, most importantly, spirituality. This is a strong theme throughout and is instrumental to the core lesson and heart of the film – those we have lost in death never truly leave us.
Kubo tells us at the beginning, “if you must blink, do it now,” and these words could not be more true; each shot could be hung on a wall with every tiny detail flourishing from monkeys hairs to the long grass swaying in the wind. Laika have produced another wonder which may not have the strength of Coraline but makes up for it through true beauty – a feat few films have achieved.